Europe's only scheduled seaplane service, Croatia’s European Coastal Airlines (ECA), has suspended all operations citing administrative issues, just over two years following its launch. In a statement, the carrier said it will no longer do business in Croatia until the operational environment becomes “trustworthy”. In August, the carrier was grounded for over two weeks and its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) briefly revoked by the country's regulator following an audit into its safety practices and maintenance procedures. ”ECA will no longer invest any funds into the Croatian seaplane project until the administrational situation has been resolved, giving us the opportunity to operate in a safe and trustworthy marketplace”, the company said. It added, “The shareholders of European Coastal Airlines do not see any alternative than to suspend operations for the time being. This comes at a high cost of almost every operational job within our company, however, we have been left with no other choice to protect the investments implemented until today”.
As a result of its decision, the carrier, which employs 146 people, will dismiss 130 of them by the end of the month. ECA notes that it has been “continuously disturbed” since its temporary grounding in August, despite reaching out to the Croatian government and other relevant authorities to avoid further administrative issues. “Sadly, since August 12, 2016, flight operations of this revolutionary infrastructure project have been continuously disturbed. Part of our fleet has been grounded for no justifiable reason”. The company has invested some 22 million euros in infrastructure development in Croatia, including the construction of eleven seaports. "It comes with the greatest regret to inform the public about these developments, nevertheless we feel the necessity to make everyone understand the situation we are in", ECA said.
Following a fourteen-year battle with bureaucracy, the German-backed ECA launched operations in 2014, connecting major cities and islands along the Croatian coast. This year it commenced its first international flights, linking the Croatian and Italian coasts, with plans to introduce operations to Montenegro in the future. The carrier boasted a fleet of four hydroplanes, two of which have the ability to land both on water and paved runways. Its main base was in Split and it maintained services to Rijeka, Zadar and Mali Lošinj airports, as well as water terminals across the country’s coastline.